Non-Fiction Books:

Hippocrates' Woman

Reading the Female Body in Ancient Greece



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Hippocrates' Woman by Helen King
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In ancient Greece, gynaecology originated in the myth of the first woman Pandora, whose beautiful appearance was seen to cover her dangerous "insides". This book demonstrates how ancient Greek healers read the signs offered by their patients' bodies, arguing that medicine was based on ideas about women and their bodies found in myth and ritual. Helen King deploys a wide range of comparative material from the social sciences to discuss religious healing, chronic pain and the creation of a powerful self-image by aspiring healers. She outlines how nursing and midwifery have tried to create their own versions of the ancient Greek past to give themselves great status, and presents a detailed account of how doctors twisted ancient Greek texts into ways of controlling women's behaviour. Finally she analyzes how later medicine, by diagnosing "hysteria" and by recommending practices such as clitoridectomy, gave its decisions authority by claiming ancient Greek origins which never existed. The text provides an insight into the origins of gynaecology and the influence of the early study and medical texts on later medical practices and theories up to the Victorian era.
Release date NZ
October 29th, 1998
Country of Publication
United Kingdom
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